Jackie Robinson is rightly remembered as an American hero for the grace he showed in the face of all manner of wretchedness while breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Now the guy who gave Robinson his shot is getting the big-screen treatment.
Robert Redford is set to play Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who had the guts to bring Robinson up to the bigs, reported 24 Frames. Brian Helgeland ("LA Confidential," "Mystic River") will direct his own, as yet untitled script, which will focus on the relationship between Rickey and Robinson.
"No one really knows the Rickey part, the political maneuvers and the partnership they had to share," said Redford. "It's the story underneath the story you thought you knew."
Rickey probably did more than anyone to shape the game of baseball as we know it, not just as the man who pushed for integration, but who developed the modern farm system and was focusing on stats like on-base percentage 40 years before anyone had heard of Bill James. The man is certainly worthy of a biopic.
But the involvement of Redford makes us nervous. It’s been a quarter-century since he made a great film, and his work of late has leaned towards the preachy and earnest.